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Raymond's Reviews #174

%T Kill Station
%S Space Cops
%V Book 1
%A Diane Duane
%A Peter Morwood
%I Avon Nova
%D January 1992
%O paperback, US$3.99
%P 249
%G ISBN 0-380-75854-7

As with the one previous Space Cops adventure, Mind Blast (RR#129), this book isn't the dead loss the hackneyed series concept ought to make it. Glyndower and O'Bannion are chasing a run of suspicious disappearances in the far asteroid belt this time; it leads them to a ring of (what else?) space pirates. Sure the plotting is contrived, but the writing's a lot better than usual for this sort of thing. If the publisher's packaging weren't so relentlessly tacky ("Elite champions of justice in a lawless galactic frontier") I could almost like this series...

%T Alien Blues
%A Lynn S. Hightower
%I Ace
%D January 1992
%O paperback, US$4.50
%P 251
%G ISBN 0-441-64460-0

This attempt at a blend of SF with the Ed McBain-style police procedural doesn't quite come off -- too many things in the protagonist's world are obviously set up for plot convenience, without much attention to their implications for other aspects of the background. As one example critical to the plot, we're expected to believe the visiting alien Elaki have learned enough human neurochemistry to produce cures for all manner of mental illnesses, but that there's still a drug-addiction problem. In general, the future shows none of the radical differences from here-and-now that its technological level certainly ought to imply. And nothing else about this book is remarkable enough to make these problems worth ignoring. Give it a miss and wish the author better craft next time.

%T Operation Chaos
%A Poul Anderson
%I Baen
%D January 1992
%O paperback, US$
%P 282
%G ISBN 0-671-72102-X

Baen continues its praiseworthy program of putting out handsome reprints of oldies-but-goodies. This fixup novel by Poul Anderson was originally a series of novellettes and novellas written between 1955 and 1970, but has become a minor classic of `hard fantasy' --- the Unknown Worlds tradition of `technology-of-magic' stories like Heinlein's Magic, Inc. and the Pratt/DeCamp Incomplete Enchanter stories. If you haven't read this one, you've a treat in store; enjoy the adventures of Steve and Virginia Matuchek as they contend with various esoteric evildoers. The climactic final episode, in which they harrow Hell itself to rescue their daughter and encounter a towering evil from our history, still yields some of the most eerie and gripping moments in modern fantasy.

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Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>